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What is an Orthodontist?

An Orthodontist is a specialized type of Dentist. Also known as: Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics Specialist, Orthodontics Specialist, Board Certified Orthodontist.

An orthodontist is a dentist who specializes in how the jaws and teeth are aligned. They have the important job of helping people whose teeth are misaligned or require some kind of correction – those with an improper bite, or malocclusion. Orthodontists have the power to help people feel less anxious about their teeth. They get to help improve smiles and give their patients self-confidence through their work.

What does an Orthodontist do?

Patients' general dentists refer them to orthodontists when their teeth are not straight and it is affecting them or could affect them in a negative way in the future. An improper bite can mean that a patient's teeth are growing in crooked or crowded and creating discomfort. Even if there is no pain or discomfort, a patient may simply want to improve their appearance with a straighter set of teeth.

Orthodontists typically deal with hardware such as retainers and headgear with the goal of aligning teeth to improve the appearance or the ability of the person to chew and swallow food without difficulty or pain. First, it is necessary that patients come in for a consultation – an assessment of their jaw and teeth malocclusion. They are usually referred to an orthodontist from their general dentist, who spots the malocclusion first. In this initial appointment, he or she will examine the teeth and jaws, and perhaps take x-rays or molds of the teeth. These specialty dentists can usually spot the major and/or minor issues right away after this first visit. It is then their job to explain to the patient exactly what the issues are with teeth alignment and then recommend some sort of strategy for treatment.

Orthodontists take a look at patients' teeth both directly and via x-rays and molds to determine exactly how the teeth are misaligned, and then come up with the most effective treatment solution. It is an orthodontist's job to fix the major imperfections of a malocclusion, and some are more serious than others. Therefore, an orthodontist's job can range from simply applying, adjusting, and removing braces to taking steps to control facial growth.

Treatment for patients with malocclusions usually comes in the form of applying braces. While people of all ages may need and wear braces, children in their teens make up the bulk of people who wear orthodontic braces for an extended period of time. It is an ideal age for wearing braces because the teeth and face are in a time of constant and significant growth, and it is better to catch and correct any teeth alignment issues early on instead of later. This way, teens' braces will help guide teeth, keeping them straight and preventing future malocclusion issues. Once an orthodontist applies braces to a patient’s teeth, the patient must come in for regular check-ups so the dentist can make any necessary adjustments as time passes. Ultimately, when the desired result has been achieved, the braces are removed.

Beyond braces, orthodontists deal with other conditions such as jaw pain, speech impediments, sleep apnea, gum disease, and difficulty chewing.

What is the workplace of an Orthodontist like?

Orthodontists work in well-lit offices or clinics. The average orthodontist works approximately 30-40 hours per week. Working conditions are generally pleasant with no expectation of being on call or working nights as some healthcare professionals do.

How can I become an Orthodontist?

To become an orthodontist, one must receive a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. Students typically major in biology or chemistry, as dental schools are more likely to accept applicants with a science background. Toward the end of their junior year, undergraduate students with the intention of applying to dental school must pass the DAT (Dental Acceptance Test). Scores help determine whether the student will be accepted. Other factors that affect acceptance to dental school include a high GPA, glowing letters of recommendation and involvement in volunteer/extracurricular activities.

After four years of undergraduate school, prospective orthodontists must study for four more years at an accredited dental school. Students spend the first two years taking courses in anatomy, periodontology, radiology and local anesthesia. During the final two years, students gain real life practice in clinical settings under the careful supervision of licensed dentists. Upon graduation, future orthodontists are awarded the Doctor of Dental Medicine degree, or DMD. However, graduates are still required to pass the National Board Dental Examinations administered by the Joint Commission on Dental Examinations to receive a state license to practice dentistry.

Aspiring orthodontists must enrol in a graduate program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation, or CODA, for specialized training and additional practice. Depending on their career goals, students can earn a master’s degree or Ph.D. in orthodontics, or a master’s degree in oral science or oral biology.

Orthodontists are required to pass written and clinical examinations administered by the American Board of Orthodontics. To qualify for the exam, students must present proof of graduating from a CODA accredited orthodontic program.



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Further Reading

  • Orthodontist Salary

    How much does an orthodontist make a year?

  • General Dentists Vs. Orthodontists

    General dentists and orthodontists both provide patients with oral care. Dentists work on a wide variety of oral health issues, including hygiene, tooth and gum care and various decay and structural problems. Orthodontists, meanwhile, are specialists who focus on the alignment of teeth and jaws, using non-surgical solutions to correct improper positioning.

  • How To Become An Orthodontist

    An orthodontist is a dentist who specializes in jaw alignment and moving teeth. Following dental school, an orthodontist must complete an additional 2 to 3 years residency program at an accredited school.

  • A Day In The Life

    Hi, my name is Dr. Guymon, I have practiced orthodontics in Logan, Utah for about 15 years. Many times we're asked as orthodontists how we like our jobs and what we do all day. I thought to answer those questions I would invite you to spend a day with me in my office and you can see just what it is that orthodontists do.

  • Educational Skills Required To Become An Orthodontist

    Orthodontists are specialized dentists trained to diagnose, prevent and correct structural problems in patient's teeth. More than a decade of education is required in preparation for this career.

  • What Is An Orthodontist?

    An orthodontist is a dental specialist who works to prevent or correct misaligned teeth and jaws, which are called malocclusions or faulty occlusions. A person may seek this specialist's services for cosmetic reasons as well as health reasons.

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